South Sudan could face famine without funding, SRSG says

27 Mar 2014

South Sudan could face famine without funding, SRSG says

27 March 2014 - Unless humanitarians in South Sudan received the funding they needed, famine could descend on the country in five months, UNMISS’ top official told a German delegation visiting the mission in Juba today.

“We think eight to 10 hundred thousand people are in a very critical situation,” Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Hilde F. Johnson told the delegation, which was headed by German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Muller.

“Famine as it is being defined is likely within 5 months unless humanitarians … get all the food they need into respective locations before the rains start,” said Ms. Johnson. “The clock is ticking and it’s a race against time.”

If requested, UNMISS would support humanitarians with force protection – one of its new crisis priority tasks -- to deliver assistance when it arrived, Ms. Johnson said. “This is now necessary in very many parts of the country, unfortunately.”

Another vital mission priority was protecting civilians, which meant patrolling in and around UNMISS camps, now sheltering a total of 65,000 civilians in eight bases across the country, the SRSG said.

The surge in military numbers by 5,500 troops, authorized by the Security Council to assist in protecting civilians shortly after the crisis began, had been “very slow”, she added, noting that only 800 had so far arrived.

Protecting civilians also meant keeping them safe from health hazards as the rainy season approached, Ms. Johnson said. For this reason, the UNMISS Tomping protection area, which the delegation was due to visit following the briefing, would be closed sometime in May.

“It is totally at risk of health hazards and it’s just not a liveable place for civilians at this point in time,” she said, adding that the 21,000 displaced living there had one tenth of the space required by international standards.

The UN and its partners had tried to convince the displaced to move to another camp on the UNMISS Jebel base, which had better facilities and was on much higher ground, Ms. Johnson said. “But there’s a lot of apprehension with moving. I think people are generally afraid, but we have no choice now but to close the site.”

Another vital new mission priority was investigating and monitoring human rights violations, which was “critical given the atrocities that have been committed”, the SRSG said. UNMISS would also focus on support for the peace process and reconciliation as well as protecting UN personnel and assets.